Location and terrain
The park is located largely within the southern Kalahari Desert. The terrain consists of red sand dunes, sparse vegetation, occasional trees, and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob Rivers.
The rivers are said to flow only about once per century. However, water flows underground and provides life for grass and camelthorn trees growing in the river beds. The rivers may flow briefly after large thunderstorms.
The park has abundant, varied wildlife. It is home to large mammalian predators such as Southern African lions (Panthera leo melanochaita), cheetahs, leopards and hyenas.
Migratory herds of large herbivores such as blue wildebeest, springbok, eland, and red hartebeest also live and move seasonally within the park, providing sustenance for the predators.
More than 200 species of bird can be found in the park, including vultures and raptors such as eagles, buzzards, and secretary birds.
The weather in the Kalahari can reach extremes. January is midsummer in southern Africa and the daytime temperatures are often in excess of 40 °C (104 °F).
Winter nights can be quite cold with temperatures below freezing. Extreme temperatures of −11 °C (12 °F) and up to 45 °C (113 °F) have been recorded. Precipitation is sparse in this desert area.
Within the park there are three traditional tourist lodges, called “rest camps”. These are fully serviced lodges and include amenities such as air conditioning, shops and swimming pools. There are also six wilderness camps in the park.
The wilderness camps provide little more than shelter and wash water; visitors must supply their own food, drinking water and firewood.
The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa was established on 31 July 1931 mainly to protect the migrating game, especially the gemsbok, from poaching.
In 1948 an informal verbal agreement was made between the then Bechuanaland Protectorate and the Union of South Africa to set up a conservation area in the contiguous areas of the two lands.
In June 1992 representatives from the South African National Parks Board Board (now SANParks) and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana set up a joint management committee to manage the area as a single ecological unit.
A management plan was drafted, reviewed, and approved in 1997. The parties agreed to cooperate in tourism and share equally in park entrance fees. On 7 April 1999, Botswana and South Africa signed a historic bilateral agreement whereby both countries undertook to manage their adjacent national parks, the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa as a single ecological unit.
The boundary between the two parks had no physical barriers, although it is also the international border between the two countries. This allowed for the free movement of animals.
On 12 May 2000, President Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa formally launched Southern Africa’s first peace park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Cultural preservation and establishment of !Xaus Lodge
In October 2002, the governments set aside 580 km² (224 mi²) for the use of the native peoples, the Khomani San and Mier communities. This was divided between 277.69 km² of San Heritage Land and 301.34 km² of Mier Heritage Land.
The South African National Parks (SANParks) manages the land under contract. The settlement agreement also provided for the communities to receive funds for the specific purpose of constructing a tourism facility.
The lodge was named !Xaus Lodge (meaning ‘heart’ in the local language) and is managed commercially on behalf of the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities by Transfrontier Parks Destinations.
In September 2014, the government of Botswana quietly sold the rights to frack for shale gas in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
It granted prospecting licences for 29,291 square kilometres (2,929,100 ha), 34,435 square kilometres (3,443,500 ha) and 23,980 square kilometres (2,398,000 ha) – more than half of the Botswanan part of the park – to a United Kingdom-listed company called “Nodding Donkey”. The sale was not reported at the time. In November 2015, the company changed its name to “Karoo Energy”.